We all know that thinking for ourselves is something positive, something we should aspire to. But how many of us still practice it? We might think we do, but when was the last time you actually sat down and really went over something in your head, rather than adopting the conclusions you’ve heard from your family, your friends, social media or the TV?
With the continuous growth of the digital world, we are constantly bombarded with information, so it’s no mystery as to why we can sometimes seem to set our minds to auto-pilot. There’s just too much information out there to process everything. But just because we can’t process, and can’t question everything, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to tackle some of it.
I think we’ve started to adopt ‘group think’ mentalities; ‘everyone at work thinks this..’, ‘all my friends feel like this..’, ‘my family believe this..’, so we feel that we must think like that too. Maybe not consciously, but subconsciously it can just be decided that if so many people think it, it must be true.
But just because something is common, doesn’t mean it’s right. We can find more than a few unsavoury examples in history where terrible things happened as a result of ‘group think’.
Another thing i’ve noticed is a desire to never have to hear opinions or thoughts we don’t agree with. I’ve been so guilty of this in the past. I genuinely feel ashamed of how I used to ferociously shut down conversations where my viewpoint was challenged. I still don’t know what it was that made me feel that was necessary. Was it a fear of being proved wrong? A fear of being offended? Or, was it a fear of having to re-evaluate what I thought to be true, and potentially, re-think my whole world view? I think it might have been all of the above.
The way I see it now, the only outcome to come out of going into ‘debate’ with someone, is growth. If what they have to say uncovers a hole in what you thought to be true, you’ve learned something. And, if it doesn’t? You’ve found new depth to your argument. Not to mention the personal growth you’ll have experienced in having to put your emotion, and your bias aside, to sit there and listen to something contradictory to everything you believe.
It’s a hard thing to do, to put emotion and bias aside. For me, it physically hurts. It’s like taking a part of you and putting it on the shelf, just until the conversation is over. But it’s the only way we will learn and grow. Otherwise we just remain in our little bubbles with our limited world views. Especially in our 20’s! This is when we should be seeking out the company and conversation of as many different people, and perspectives, as possible!
‘Outrage Culture’ is a product of this. When we hear something we don’t like, we express our outrage as loudly as possible, but when it comes to conversation about why the opinion is wrong, and more importantly, what is the right answer… it all goes very quiet. Again, I’m not preaching from some high and mighty position here.. this is something i’m far too rehearsed in. But now, phrases like ‘you can’t say that’, ‘how dare X say that’ have really started to piss me off. No, how dare you try to stop someone expressing their mind, just because you don’t like it. Instead, go and express your own mind, and show them why they’re wrong… using facts, not insults.
I think we can almost feel like listening to someone we doesn’t agree with can hurt us, like they could somehow taint us with their bias. But what about our own bias? Hearing someone out won’t inhibit our ability to think for ourselves, it will fuel it! Now that we have two contradicting viewpoints, we have to use our minds to think it through and come to our own conclusions as to which is right.
The old rhyme, ‘sticks and stones can break your bones, but words will never hurt you’ is often critiqued nowadays. Words can hurt, but maybe they shouldn’t. If we can be a little stronger and have a slightly stronger sense of self, maybe what other people have to say wouldn’t hurt us. Then the real conversation can begin.